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Aaron Sanchez on the road to recovery, but to where?


Aaron Sanchez begun his road back to the big leagues yesterday in a couple inning start in the Gulf Coast League. In it, Sanchez wasn’t outstanding, throwing two complete innings, allowing two runs while walking one and striking out one.

Obviously, it’s his first start coming off a latissimus dorsi (lat) strain so growing pains of sorts are to be expected. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet indicated prior to game two in Chicago that the Blue Jays would give him ample time to build up his strength before pushing him to north with the Jays. After all, the Jays won’t need another starter until around July 22nd, assuming they shorten their rotation to four men this week ahead of the All-Star break.

Theoretically, there is plenty of time for Sanchez to climb the rungs of the Blue Jays’s organizational ladder and get to the top in time. The real question is, when he gets there, where will he fit in? Will he return to the rotation or restore his presence in the Jays bullpen?

In a perfect world, maybe even this world, the Jays would go out and acquire a starting pitcher and thus force Sanchez back to the pen. In some ways, that might not even be the best option considering both Drew Hutchison and R.A Dickey are struggling of late far worse than Sanchez did before falling to the disabled list.

In 66 innings this season, Sanchez has performed to a 3.55 ERA with a 5-4 record. His peripheral statistics don’t project future success with his FIP sitting at an ugly 5.16 largely due to his reliance on his fielders to make plays to sustain strong outings.  His DRA (deserved run average) of 4.71 is a tad better but even then it’s nothing to write home about. Then again, who in the Jays’s rotation’s is?

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Throughout the season, the Jays have used a combined nine starters. It’s been well documented just how well that’s gone. The four starters least used–those filling in for Sanchez and company when a spot start was needed– include Daniel Norris, Scott Copeland, Matt Boyd and Todd Redmond. Together they’ve amassed exactly replacement level.

Over the full season, Sanchez has been worth marginally below replacement level at -0.1 WAR according to Fangraphs; however, that could be a tad misleading in regards to the future. Without a very poor April, where Sanchez was -0.3 WAR and had a 5.03 ERA, his stats would be much better. In both May and June Sanchez was worth 0.1 WAR and that’s with only one eight inning start in the month of June.

Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays have indicated they would like Sanchez to return as a starter but with their trade priority being a starting pitcher, and no other obvious rotation spot open, Sanchez just might be the one heading back to the pen. Of course, this move is heavily contingent on the Jays making a move for another starter. Without it, there isn’t a logical reason why he would head to the pen unless Anthopoulos is planning on promoting Daniel Norris or keeping Felix Doubront in the rotation.

If he does make the trek beyond the outfield fence, at least it won’t be an environment completely foreign to him. In 33 innings last season he had a hardly noticeable 1.09 ERA with a 0.5 WAR. While it’s never a guarantee he will renew that success, his overpowering fastball and shallow arsenal are strong indications Jays fans could get a sense of deja vu.

So, where the Jays are now is extremely cloudy. Sanchez should be a starter when he returns, but with the unlikelihood of Dickey or Hutchison heading to the pen and the assumed trade to address that aforementioned need, it’s likely Jays fans see Sanchez in the bullpen and will be quite happy about it.

With a little less than a month until the trade deadline and potentially less for Sanchez’s return, there’s little certainty in the air of Blue Jays’ land except for the fact that there will undeniably be some interesting moves on the horizon.

Or, at least, let’s hope so.